I was shopping at Charming Charlie's for Christmas presents, since I had a coupon for $10 in free merchandise. It's a store that sells accessories--jewelry, scarves, shoes, purses.
I was in the clearance section looking at small necklaces for Chicklet11. She could use something silver and basic now that she's getting to an age where she can remember to wear and keep track of her jewelry.
I saw lots of recognizable little animals and such, but then a charm caught my eye because I couldn't identify at first. Was it...what I thought it was? A razor blade?
The practice of "cutting" wasn't really on my radar screen until I had teenagers, but now I know kids and adults who struggle with this compulsion. I know there are websites and Facebook groups for cutters who proudly self-identify this way. This kind of thing must be marketed to them, but still: Is this something this store was really interested in promoting? Right there next to the owls and ballerina slippers?
Should I say something? I so often look the other way, but this was truly disturbing to me. The Edmund Burke quote rushed into my mind: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." And I had nothing to lose, I decided.
When I had picked out my gifts, I carried my purchases to the register along with the disturbing necklace. As the pleasant cashier rang up my items, I held out the necklace and asked if she could tell me what that charm was. She took off her glasses and looked at it closely. Her brow furrowed and she said, "I think it's a razor blade, but let's ask [my associate]." She called over a young woman, probably about 20, who immediately identified it and then offered, "We have larger ones too, with bling, right over there."
"Well, I was actually questioning whether Charming Charlie's knew what it was, and whether it's appropriate for..."
She cut me off. "Oh, it's not religious or anything. I mean it's just like a cross. It doesn't mean anything."
She left and I looked at the cashier, who was also the manager. "I know people who struggle with cutting themselves, and it's not something I would think your store would want to promote," I said.
She nodded, as it dawned on her that that's what the razor blade represented. "Thank you for bringing that to my attention, she said. "I'll talk to my supervisor about it."
Not religious? Like a cross? Did she even know what those words mean? What would she say IS religious??
And could she really believe that a symbol like a razor blade or a cross is devoid of meaning? I understand that crosses are everywhere and if you're not a Christ-follower, they don't mean much to you.
I understand that a necklace like this one might mean nothing to a lot of shoppers or sales clerks. But it speaks volumes to a middle school girl who struggles with self-hatred, or whose best friend committed suicide with one of these, or someone who compulsively punishes themselves this way.
I don't know the answer. There are dozens of images of charms like this one that come up in Google. My little comment was about as impactful as dropping a pebble in Lake Michigan, and I know there are far worse things that many kids are exposed to regularly.
My heart is saddened mostly by our unwillingness, as a culture, to protect children and the innocent and vulnerable. We flaunt our rights to make a statement without caring how it affects others.
I don't see religious symbols in the same category as a razor blade, even though they make a statement too. I wouldn't have been offended by a charm symbolizing another religion besides my own, and I wouldn't use the word "flaunt" to describe someone wearing one. I would hope that a religious statement would be a symbol of good, not evil, intention to the wearer.
Or would it be just a meaningless symbol to them?